05/05/2012 10:02 BST

Nick Clegg Missed 'Tremendous' Opportunity To Get Ahead In Polls, Says Tavish Scott MSP

A former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader has criticised Nick Clegg in the aftermath of heavy losses at the local government elections.

Tavish Scott, the Shetland MSP and former Scottish Executive minister, said the UK party leader missed a "tremendous" opportunity to get on the front foot ahead of the polls.

Writing in the Scotsman newspaper, Scott said he should have concentrated on David Cameron's links to media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

He compared the UK approach with that of Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, who has questioned First Minister Alex Salmond over his links to the News Corporation chairman, including a meeting at his official residence in Edinburgh.

Scott wrote: "Nick Clegg had one tremendous opportunity to get on the front political foot. Murdoch should have been a gift to the UK Lib Dems.

"Here in Scotland, Willie Rennie hammered Salmond over tea and Tunnock's in Bute House with the man responsible for a media empire whose modus operandi was illegal.

"Yet in London, Clegg could and should have done the same to Cameron. Coalition or no coalition, this was a gift. (Culture Secretary) Jeremy Hunt is without doubt a cheerleader for all things Murdoch. Clegg should have demanded his dismissal or at least his suspension."

The Lib Dem vote appeared to suffer badly in Scotland. One of the highest profile casualties was Jenny Dawe, the defending Lib Dem council leader in Edinburgh. Her group was reduced by 13 to a rump of three councillors.

Voters in one capital ward gave more support to a man dressed as a penguin than a Lib Dem candidate.

In Glasgow, the Lib Dems were left with a single seat, while they also suffered heavy defeats in Aberdeen,

Aberdeenshire and Fife - authorities they had helped to run.

Meanwhile, Labour and the SNP made gains across Scotland, while the Greens made notable advances in Edinburgh, winning six seats.

Labour took majority control of Glasgow, which the SNP had targeted, and became the largest party in Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

But the SNP - in contrast to the Conservatives in England - made significant gains despite being the party of government at Holyrood.

The SNP increased its tally of councillors by 57, compared with results from 2007, and remain the largest party spread across Scotland's 32 councils.

Scott said the "spectre" of coalition with the Tories had affected the results for his party, suggesting Lib Dems adopt an SNP tactic.

"The future is not to criticise Salmond and the Nationalists, but use their model," he wrote. "Be a government and an opposition at the same time."